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Nurses at 5 Twin Cities hospitals say no to Allina, yes to strike

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Nurses who went on strike for a week at five Twin Cities hospitals in June are now ready to call an open-ended walkout after rejecting a contract offer from Allina Health Thursday.

The Minnesota Nurses Association says 4,800 nurses voted overwhelmingly against the contract and authorized the union's negotiating committee to call a strike.

The union says it expects a mediator will call both sides back to the bargaining table "one last time" but their negotiating committee is beginning to plan for a strike. Nurses would need to give Allina at least 10 days notice before a strike.

Angela Becchetti, a registered nurse at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis says "Nurses know they may be out of a job for awhile. They are prepared."

Other hospitals that would be affected by a strike are United in St. Paul, Unity in Fridley, Mercy in Coon Rapids, and Phillips Eye Institute in Minneapolis.

Health insurance the key issue

The big sticking point in the contract impasse is health insurance. Allina wants to transition nurses off of their union-backed health plan onto the insurance coverage other company employees have. Allina says the costs of the nurses' current coverage are not sustainable for the company.

Nurses say they've tried to meet Allina half way by agreeing to end two of their four current plans and pay higher deductibles. The union also wants staffing changes they say would improve patient care and wants training to deal with workplace violence.

First strike cost Allina $20 million

According to Becker's Hospital CFO, Allina reported $20.4 million in expenses related to the weeklong strike in June, during which the company hired 1,400 replacement nurses.

Becker's says Allina's operating income for the first half of this year was down 40 percent compared to 2015, mostly because of strike costs.

The Star Tribune says the last open-ended nurses strike in the Twin Cities occurred 15 years ago, when nurses at Fairview stayed off the job for three weeks.

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